The Average Lifespans of the Most Popular Residential Roofing Materials

Roofing material lifespan comparisons.

The avatar of Rachel Polant

Rachel Polant

Aug 15

Often, with new roof installation, it’s about striking a balance between price and quality. And, for many homeowners who are nervously contemplating four and five-figure re-roofing projects, the lifespan of the roofing material plays a key factor into that decision.

You can rate roofing materials from many different angles — aesthetics, lowest cost, resale value, DIY-ability — but if longevity is your priority, you should look to these types.

Asphalt Roll Roof

  • Lifespan: 5 to 25 years.
  • Why: It’s a relatively inexpensive roofing material that can last quite a while. It comes in many colors and won’t look out of place on most home styles.
  • Make It Last Longer: There is little you can do to prolong the asphalt lifespan. Make sure that it is clear of debris and installed correctly the first time by a qualified roofing contractor.

Composite Shingle Roof

  • Lifespan: 15 to 50 years.
  • Why: Composite shingles are cheap to purchase and install. Longevity predictions for composite/asphalt shingles vary wildly because the quality of this popular material varies wildly. Premium composite shingles from manufacturers like Owens Corning, GAF, or Certainteed come with high-end warranties pushing a half-century. But that does not mean that your roof will last 50 years.
  • Make It Last Longer: Watch out for cheap composite shingles that start to shed grains even in the first year. Never power wash your composite shingle roof. Eliminate moss as soon as it begins to grow.

Wood Shingle Roof

  • Lifespan: 25 years.
  • Why: Wood is an organic material. As such, it is prone to weathering and decay. Note, that these are wood shingles, not shakes (see below). Since shingles are sawn from the log, they are thin and flat.
  • Make It Last Longer: Replace split and cracked shingles immediately. Control moss growth.

Standing Seam Metal Roof

  • Lifespan: 30 to 50 years.
  • Why: Pre-formed standing seam metal roofing is mainstream now. After all, what can be stronger than a metal roof overhead? But metal roofs are not for the average roofing company, so make sure to contract with a company that specializes in metal roofing.
  • Make It Last Longer: Regularly check your standing seam metal roof to check for fastener and sealant failures. Check for distressed, bent, or migrating panels.

Wood Shake Shingle Roof

  • Lifespan: 35-40 years.
  • Why: Wood shakes are much thicker than wood shingles (see above). Shakes are split or sawn from the log. In either case, these thicker shakes can stand up to weather and UV rays better than thin wood shingles.
  • Make It Last Longer: Thick wood shakes can last well over a quarter century, but you do need to baby them along with proper maintenance. There is no “set it and forget it” option for any kind of wood shingle. Remove debris as soon as it falls on the roof. Eliminate moss. Replace split shakes right away. Replace curled, cupped, or split shakes immediately.

Clay/Concrete Tile Roof

  • Lifespan: 100 years.
  • Why: Clay tile roofs from the old California missions are still in service. Travel across Spain and South America and you will find even older Spanish tile roofs in reasonably good shape.
  • Make It Last Longer: Avoid walking on your tile roof as much as possible as they will crack. When efflorescence develops, buff off with a clean, dry towel. Coat with a clear alkyd primer. Replace cracked and broken tiles.

Slate Roof

  • Lifespan: 100+ years.
  • Why: Slate is so durable it makes all other roofing materials look like rice paper. Slate roofs from Shakespeare’s time are still holding tight. Slate is real stone, laid down thick on the roof. But adequate truss strength is required to hold up its heavy weight.
  • Make It Last Longer: Immediately replace broken slate tiles. Make sure that all flashings are correctly installed and in good working order. When your copper flashing has turned black, it is time to replace it.

The most important aspect of getting a new roof installed is making sure the roofer you hire is well-qualified and top-rated in working with the roofing material you choose. It won’t matter how much you spend on the most durable roofing material if the contractor does shoddy work on your roof. A good contractor should be your first priority.

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The avatar of Rachel Polant

Rachel Polant

Aug 15